Our Boss Will Fire Us If We Don’t Sign Up to Be a Liver Donor for His Brother
Q: The owner of the company I work for, which has about 100 employees, has a brother who needs a liver transplant. Two weeks ago, a company-wide memo went out that all employees would be required to undergo testing to see if they were a suitable liver donor for the owner's brother. No exceptions. I'm in remission for cancer and can't be an organ donor. What should I do?
Last week the owner's assistant went around to schedule days off for everyone at one branch of the company so they could get tested. People who declined were let go. One of these people was born with liver disease and therefore ineligible to donate. She had a doctor’s note. Other people also had medical reasons as well and some were just uncomfortable with the request and didn’t want to do it. One was pregnant. They were still terminated. My employer’s assistant has said that because our employment is at will, he can legally fire us.
I’m in remission from cancer. I’m ineligible to donate and any kind of surgery would put a major strain on my system. Even if I was healthy, I would still object to possibly being forced into donating an organ just to keep my job. Soon they will be scheduling people’s days off for testing at my branch.
I know this situation is nuts, but I don’t know what to do.
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A: What the actual F.
He’s firing people who don’t want to sign up to donate part of their liver?
Your boss is both an absolute loon and an incredible jerk.
He’s also not very smart, since doctors won’t accept organ donations from people who aren’t willingly and happily volunteering, so all of this ridiculousness will be for nothing.
But let’s talk legality. I showed your letter to employment attorney Bryan Cavanaugh and asked him to weigh in. He says:
So to our ongoing list of your boss’s characteristics, which currently includes loon, jerk, and not smart, you can add law-breaker.
As for what to do, you could have a lawyer explain this to your employer on your behalf, and/or file a complaint with the EEOC, the federal agency that enforces the ADA. (Note that you have to file it within 180 days from the violation.)
But I’d also start job searching. Even if this gets quickly settled, you’re working with someone who has such a skewed idea of the employment relationship that he thinks he has say over your internal organs. Get out get out get out.
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Note: This situation is so outrageous that it occurred to me to wonder whether the letter is real or not. At this point, I’ve received so many credible stories of outrageous behavior by employers that I’m willing to believe it and I’m treating it as genuine (and the letter-writer included a note to me outside the letter here that makes me think it’s real), but the reality is that I have no way of knowing. Letter-writer, assuming you are real, take this as a measure of how messed up the situation is. Commenters, I’m requesting that we not get derailed by debates about veracity. Thanks!
Q: My boss is intense BFFs with my coworker
I work for a very large Fortune 500 company. There is an HR policy in place regarding conflicts of interest for family members and opposite-sex relationships. However, there is not a policy regarding same-sex friendships.
In my department, my manager and coworker have a very intense personal relationship (non-sexual). They work out together during the week and on weekends, they attend all sorts of sporting events, they dine together, they take expensive vacations together (spas/vacations out of the country – one of which was financed by my manager), they text, they are in each other’s offices all day, they take selfies and post them on Facebook, and they share clothing. It is a very close friendship.
As a result, the coworker has a LOT of power in our group. She has unlimited access to our boss, and she is able to direct her own narrative. Our boss maintains that she can be objective. I disagree. There have been a number of instances where this coworker’s behavior was excused instead of addressed. She can act, essentially, with impunity. My bosses’ boss knows about this friendship, and either hasn’t or won’t address it. It could be that I have been existing in this dysfunctional environment for too long, but I’m starting to think that maybe I am wrong. Is this a conflict or am I off base?
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A: No, it’s a huge conflict! You don’t have to be having sex with someone to have inappropriate biased in their favor or to be perceived as having inappropriate bias in their favor.
Occasionally working out together or dining together? Not a big deal on its own. But hanging out on weekends, vacationing together (!), sharing clothing (!), and all the rest? A huge deal. A huge, massive, ridiculous, complete abdication of your manager’s job. She’s far, far over the line of what’s appropriate. No one looking at that would believe that she can be unbiased or objective about your coworker, which means that she’s not able to do her job.
As for what to do … if her boss knows and won’t address it (huge failure on her part too), there might not be much you can do. You could talk to your boss or her boss and explain how the dynamic is impacting your department, but I’m skeptical that the friendship would actually get dialed back to an appropriate level (i.e., about 5% of where it is currently) without a serious mandate from someone above her who truly sees why this is completely not okay.
These questions are adapted from ones that originally appeared on Ask a Manager. Some have been edited for length.